The Heart of the New Life
Col. 3:15-17 June 7, 1998
We decided upon a new annual church verse three weeks ago. You will notice it on the back wall of the sanctuary. It is Col. 3:16, and we thank Ray Gustafson for printing it for us. It replaces 2Chron. 7:14 which stirred our corporate consciousness for the last 2 or 3 years on the O.T. command to seek renewal for our church and nation by humility, prayer and repentance before God. It is now time to re-focus, but not as much as you might think. Our new verse gives us the same three commands from the N.T. perspective. It is from the new perspective of the new life we have in Christ, and it is from his context that we must re-focus. These three parallel commands cover the same topics of attitude (humility), speech (prayer and praise), and action (turn from sin).
Our new verse forms the heart of today’s passage upon which I would like to preach, “The Heart of the New Life,” appropriate for us as believers in Christ who have been, and are being, totally transformed by his peace, through his Word, and for his glory. Col. 3 begins with a beautiful reminder of our new life in Christ. Our old life is now dead and our new life is Christ himself. Beginning in verse 5 we are then told to put off the things of the old life (we have some responsibility in this). Then starting in verse 12 we are told what to put on. The clothes of the King’s wardrobe are much more glorious than the rags we are told to remove. Since we belong to the King, we must dress in a manner which will not discredit him.
But our new life is not one of merely outward appearance. These clothes are inner qualities of a transformed heart, the home of righteousness, the home of Christ. So we come to today’s passage about the heart of the new life which is the closet these clothes are kept in. Every time we walk in this closet we come out with the clean clothes of Christ-like attitude, speech and action. We are re-outfitted in the way we think, speak and act. But it begins with a heart given to Christ. This is a heart that has died to self and lives to God. In a sense, it is a heart attack. Without a heart, there is no life. In Christ we have a new spiritual heart and a new spiritual life. We go in to the closet to meet him and he tells us what would look good on us today. And when we look good, he looks good. And God will have the glory. And he shares all things freely with us because we are his - we are in him and he is in us. We are to be profoundly thankful for this new life, considering what our old one was like. Let us look at these three commands which are at the heart of our new life in Christ.
I. The heart of the new life is ruled by Christ’s peace.
(Expressing thanks to God through attitude.)
Col. 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
First, the believer is to have a heart ruled by Christ’s peace. He is to let the peace of Christ rule in all things and differences. Where Christ is King, peace rules. War with God ceases. The shed blood of Jesus has made peace between the guilty sinner and the holy justice of God. The word “peace” means to be bound, joined, and woven together with God. It means to be assured, confident, and secure in the love and care of God. It means to know that God will take care of us no matter the problem or circumstance. It means to be absolutely assured that God will allow nothing to defeat us. He will strengthen, sustain, provide, encourage, deliver, guide, save, and give real life both now and forever. But note that this peace is the peace of Christ. He alone possesses it. A person can only experience true peace as he comes to know Christ. Only Christ can bring real peace to the human heart which is deliverance from sin to the human soul. It is an inner transformation. We see three things about the peace of Christ.
A. A choice: Let the peace of Christ rule.
The believer has a choice whether or not to let this peace rule. We do not automatically experience the peace of Christ. We are supposed to, but we may choose not to do so. That is why this is a command. It demands obedience. God wants us to live peaceful lives. The word “rule” means to act like an umpire. Peace is to be the umpire, the deciding factor in all situations and circumstances of life.
Matthew Henry wrote, “Let this peace rule in your heart - prevail and govern there --- as an umpire let it decide all matters of difference among you.” William Barclay said, “Let the peace of God --- be the decider of all things within your heart.”
The point is that we have a choice whether to let the umpire of Christ’s peace rule our hearts. We have to be willing to accept his decisions in the plays of life. He will decide fairly and we can have peace about his decisions. Contending with him doesn’t work. Letting him call the shots brings peace to the game of life, both with the other players and with the owner of the team.
Joh 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Joh 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Ro 5:1 ¶ Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Eph 2:14 ¶ For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
Ps 119:165 ¶ Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
Isa 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Isa 48:18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
B. The reason: Peace is the foundation for unity.
The reason why believers are to let the peace of Christ rule is clearly stated: we are called to be in one body. Any believer who stands out there in another body is not a genuine believer. There is only one body of Christ, only one body of believers, only one church. This means something significant: believers are to act as one. They are to live an behave as one body, as a body of people in union with each other. How? By letting the peace of Christ rule in their hearts. Peace is to be the deciding factor, the umpire in all relationships between believers. Peace with God brings peace with others.
Why is this exhortation given? Because all too often some person arises within the church who is cantankerous and divisive, critical and judgmental, murmuring and grumbling, or gossiping and spreading rumors. Too often some person becomes a trouble maker, a person who stirs up trouble within the body of Christ, the church. The person accepts the umpire of difference instead of the umpire of peace. He lets differences rule within his heart instead of Christ and his peace. This is the reason this exhortation is needed. Some persons desperately need to hear the challenge and demand of God: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts for you are called to live as one body in peace.”
Job 22:21 ¶ "Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.
Ps 34:14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Ro 8:6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;
Ro 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
Ro 14:18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
Ro 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
C. The response: Thankfulness for the authority of Christ’s peace which enables us to have unity.
Believers are to respond to the demand for peace with thankfulness. Believers should always thank Christ for his peace:
- which he has brought to their own hearts personally
- which he has brought to all who trust him
- which he has brought within his body, the church
Eph 5:20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 5:21 ¶ Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Php 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Php 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Col 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
II. The heart of the new life is rich with Christ’s word.
(Expressing thanks to God through speech.)
Col. 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Second, the believer is to have a heart rich with the Word of Christ. He is to let it dwell in his heart. This (and Rom. 10:17) is the only place in the Bible where it is referred to as the Word of Christ instead of the Word of God. The emphasis of Colossians is Christ. Three points are made about it.
A. A choice: Let the Word of Christ dwell.
Here again the believer has a choice. The word of Christ does not naturally dwell within the believer’s heart. The word “dwell” means to be at home or to make a home, to abide within. The believer must make room within his heart for the word of Christ. He must let the Word enter and be at home there. He must clean out all the old furnishings of his heart and let the Word of Christ redecorate and take up residence. The meaning of “richly” is no quick visit but a lengthy relationship through which the richness of the Word makes rich the soul. It is deep discussion, baring of the heart and soul. It is honest inquiry and impassioned agreement. The Word of Christ must be allowed to furnish the believer’s heart with all the wealth of its commandments and promises, instructions and warnings.
De 6:6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
De 11:18 ¶ Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Ps 119:11 ¶ I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Joh 15:7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
2Ti 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
1Pe 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
1Pe 2:3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
B. The reason:
1. The Word is the foundation for teaching and admonishment.
The reason why believers are to let the Word of Christ dwell within them is clearly stated: believers are to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. By teaching is meant the instruction of the Word and by admonition is meant the warning of Scripture. But how can we teach and admonish others if we do not know the Word of Christ or let it dwell within us? The answer is that we can’t. It is not enough just to know the Word of Christ, we must be living it. Knowing it and not living it is hypocrisy. Our very lives must be the home, the dwelling place for the Word of Christ. When people look at us, they must immediately see that our lives are indwelled by the Word of Christ.
Something else must be noted here. We can teach and admonish others in forbearance and not in wisdom. Worldly philosophy and teachings about reality and truth, God and the universe, are only the crude notions of men. The truth and wisdom of life are found in the Word of Christ and that alone.
Eze 44:23 They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.
1Ti 4:9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance
1Ti 4:10 (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
1Ti 4:11 Command and teach these things.
1Ti 4:15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
1Ti 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
2Ti 2:24 And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2. The Word is the foundation for worship and praise.
There is another way to tell whether the Word of Christ dwells in us: are we singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord? As we walk throughout the day are we lifted by his Word to the heights of praise and worship? The wisdom of his instruction to us solicits praise poured back out to him, which is evidence of its working in our hearts. And this also is instruction to others as our praise teaches and admonishes them in the proper response to God for the wisdom of his Word.
What a contrasting picture of how so many believers live. The believer is to live and move and have his being in Christ, and he is to let Christ live and move and have his being in him. For the believer, to live is Christ (Col. 3:4). We are to walk all day long talking about and sharing Christ, teaching and admonishing others in the Word of Christ, singing the psalms of Scripture, and the hymns of the church, and the spiritual songs that arise out of a heart filled with the joy of the Lord and his Word.
1Co 14:15 ¶ So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.
Ps 95:1 ¶ Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
C. The response: Thankfulness for the fellowship of Christ’s Word which instructs us in wisdom and worship.
The Word which indwells, like the peace that rules, evokes the response of gratitude to God for his marvelous grace. Gratitude in itself is instruction, admonishment, wisdom, and praise.
III. The heart of the new life is ripe for Christ’s glory.
(Expressing thanks to God through action.)
Col. 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Third, the believer is to have a heart that does all in the name of Christ. Whatever he does in thought, word or deed must be done for the sake and the glory of Christ.
A. A choice: Doing all things for Christ.
And once again we have a choice to do so. The believer himself is the one responsible for how he speaks and acts. No one speaks and acts for him. Whether or not he speaks and acts for Christ is his choice. The command is there to do all things (whatever) for Christ and Christ alone.
B. The reason: Christ’s Name is the foundation for all glory.
Everything is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. What does this mean? It means that the name of Jesus is the only name God accepts in his presence. It means that the name of Jesus is the only way to bring glory to God. Any thing done in any other name, for any other reason, for any other glory is not acceptable to God. The only persons he accepts are those that come to him in the name of Christ. There is no other name given among men by which men may be saved. So we approach God in the name of Jesus Christ. We do this by surrendering our name and taking up his. We do this by surrendering our life and taking up his, by living for him. This is why the believer does not dare to speak or act outside the name of Christ. To do so would be evidence of a life not transformed by Christ, still seeking its own glory. So what does it mean to do all in the name of Christ? It means:
- to live, move, and have our being in the name of Christ.
- to trust and depend upon the name of Christ in all that we do.
- to claim the name of Christ in all that we say and do.
- to represent Christ in all that we say and do.
Simply stated, we must do nothing that dishonors Christ. Whenever we speak, Christ peppers and fills our conversation; and whenever we act, Christ is honored by our behavior.
We must remember that Christ hears every word and sees every deed. We love him with all our hearts; therefore, we seek never to hurt or cause pain for him by what we say or do. We seek to bring only honor to his name.
Lu 24:47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Joh 14:13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
Joh 20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
1Co 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Col 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
Col 3:24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
C. The response: Thankfulness for the effectiveness of Christ’s Name which directs glory to God.
The believer’s response is that of thanksgiving. God the Father has become the believer’s Father by Christ and only by Christ. Therefore, the believer is constantly thanking God the Father. But note that even in thanksgiving the believer still approaches God only by Christ. As important as thanking and praising God is, a person still has to approach God by Christ. God will accept no person apart from Christ, not even to offer thanksgiving and praise.
The heart of our passage is verse 16, our annual verse. Where the word of Christ dwells, the peace of Christ rules, and the work of Christ proceeds. We have been given these things in Christ, and he commands us to take them up in their fullness. But it is still a personal choice regarding the degree of fullness we shall receive. A heart full of itself cannot be full of Christ. I pray that we will always be seeking renewal through the fullness of Christ and yet never having our fill of him. Perhaps then God will not have his fill of us, and through Christ shall fulfill all things unto his glory. The heart of the new life is a heart given wholly to Christ in attitude, speech, and action as an expression of thanks to God for his peace, his Word, and his glory. May Jesus Christ be praised!